PARKERSBURG - Wood County Commissioners Wayne Dunn and Steve Gainer say having fewer meetings and eliminating specific times for agenda items will improve efficiency.
Commissioner Blair Couch said the commissioners were elected to do a duty and they need to meet as much as is necessary to get the job done.
The county commission sets its meeting dates and times and elects a president and president pro tem during its first meeting of the new year, which will be Thursday. The county commission meets 9:30 a.m.-noon Mondays and Thursdays and for afternoon or evening sessions as deemed necessary.
The commissioners take care of administrative duties at the start of their meetings and schedule appointments at specific times, but the meetings are open to anyone who wants to walk in and address them at any time they are in session; they just can't make any decisions without the item being on the agenda, under the procedures.
The presidency of the commission is traditionally passed down to the next highest ranking member, which this year would be Dunn. Couch is commission president, and Couch said he is not in favor of limiting the number of meetings.
Couch and Dunn were asked for their opinions on the matter at the commission meetings the week of Dec. 17; Gainer did not attend the two meetings that week; he was contacted by phone during the meetings.
Couch said, "I was duly elected to do the job. I knew what the duties and responsibilities were before coming into office. The Wood County Commission is the most responsive to the constituency of any governmental entity in the state. I would challenge anyone to walk in, unannounced, and address any other legislative/judicial body. You can't do it in Charleston. City council meets two times a month; we meet two times a week. You could come in on a Monday on an issue and we could act on it Thursday. The two-day a week meeting schedule is a longtime practice and I think the public expects it."
"We, in effect, are the mayors of the county. You don't expect the mayor to only come to work once a week to do the duties. I like the fact that we are so responsive," Couch said. "I would not be in favor of seeing the number of meetings diminished. In the past two years, we have gone out to have more community-style meetings, and I think those have been worthwhile," Couch said.
Dunn said having fewer meetings and eliminating specific times for agenda items will "improve efficiency."
Dunn and Gainer have both stated publicly on numerous occasions they feel time spent waiting between specific appointments is wasted. Dunn said he wants to do away with the specific times and just list the topics or individuals the commission is scheduled to see that day, with no specific time set.
After Gainer returned, and was at the Dec. 27 meeting, he was asked about the potential meeting changes.
"Wayne told me he planned to take the presidency. As far as schedules go, we are going to try and make our meetings more efficient. We have discussed eliminating one of the Thursday meetings and I'd be OK with that," Gainer said.
Gainer said he would also go along with not assigning a specific time for appointments on the agenda.
"That way people who come in won't have to wait until a certain time to talk to us. We can save time that way," Gainer said. Gainer said a specific time could be set if a number of people were expected to attend.
"Otherwise we would just list the items and go down through the agenda," he said. The former Parkersburg fire chief said he would prefer to run the commission meetings like a city council meeting.
"Most of them just have an agenda without the times unless they are required to have a public hearing. I think usually in those, if there is something they anticipated a large audience for, that would go first," Gainer said. He added while the commissioners have "casually discussed" the meeting changes, "they haven't talked to me that much about it. I feel we waste a lot of time, and we would be more efficient by eliminating that one meeting."
When asked if administrative staff would be required to handle additional business if the commissioners were not in attendance, Gainer said it would "just be postponed until the commission's next meeting."
The commissioners said earlier they would also be open to considering evening meetings, but the idea has been tried in the past and public attendance was sparse.
The commissioners each run from one of the three districts, but are elected countywide. The job is considered part time. The annual salary for each commissioner is $36,960.
Part of their duties as commissioners is to act as liaison to commissions, boards and agencies like the airport, health board, development authority and planning commission.